heavy clashes in Soledar, tanks in Warsaw… The bottom line is day 322

Fierce fighting is underway this Wednesday, January 11, 2023 in Soledar, eastern Ukraine, where Russia is trying by all means to reverse the course of the war, once again replacing military leaders just as kyiv looks to be closing in on getting to the West’s heavy arsenal.

Poland is ready to deliver to Ukraine a company of Leopard tanks requested by kyiv, as part of the international coalition, the Polish president said on Wednesday.

Finally, on the diplomatic front, a rare meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials took place in Turkey on Tuesday between human rights officials from the two warring sides, Dmytro Loubinets and Tatiana Moskalkova.

Here’s what to remember at 322e war days in Ukraine.

Situation in Ukraine, this Wednesday, January 11, 2023. | WEST-FRENCH INFOGRAPHICS

The ‘bloodiest’ clashes are underway in the east

Soledar, a mining town of 10,000 people, lies near the larger town of Bakhmout, which Ukraine has defended fiercely for months against invading waves of Russian troops. Russian mercenary group Wagner has claimed responsibility for his capture, in what would ultimately be a military victory for Moscow, after several humiliating setbacks since September, but this has been rejected not only by the Ukrainian military but also by the Russian army.

Fight “continue” in Soledar, the front ” hold “said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the evening. “We are doing everything to strengthen Ukraine’s defense without rest, not even for a day” in the eastern region of Donetsk, he said.

Also read: Wagner group claims control of Soledar, kyiv denies, delays Moscow

“Fierce fighting continues in Soledar”, Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Ganna Maliar said on Telegram. According to him, Russia “trying to break through” Ukraine and “fully” take over this territory “but it didn’t work”.

“Assault troops fighting in the city”, for its part reassured the Russian Ministry of Defense in a press release, which mentioned just that “airborne units block north and south” by Soledar.

“Everything that happened today against Bakhmout or Soledar is the bloodiest scenario of this war,” said Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the presidency of Ukraine, in an interview withAFP Wednesday.

Russian “big” losses and attacks

The Kremlin, which normally commands rival forces – in this case Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigojine and the Defense Ministry – is cautious about the situation on the ground. “You don’t need to rush. We are waiting for the official statement.” Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the press, while believing that there was “positive dynamics” in the ranks of the Russian troops.

“No one plans to give the city away”, insisted “Bober”, a wounded Ukrainian soldier awaiting evacuation, met on Wednesday byAFP on the road from Bakhmout to Sloviansk. Solar “not fully taken” by Russia, he said.

According to Mykhaïlo Podoliak, there were Russian military losses “very large” and “Ukrainian soldiers also lost people”. “Of course, this is more than what happened before,” he toldAFP. On a whole-Ukrainian scale, “during the day, the enemy carried out 2 missile strikes and 22 air strikes”, concluded the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

According to him, the losses in the Bakhmout-Soledar area are primarily military in nature, as few civilians are still living in the area, unlike the Russian siege of the major city of Mariupol (south-eastern Ukraine) in the first months of 2022, which is beyond doubt. claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, according to Kyiv estimates.

“We saw a completely irresponsible, to put it mildly, attitude of the Russian elite towards its military, for which thousands of people died there,” he charged. “For us there was a loss, a significant loss, for them this loss is extraordinary,” rate Mykhaïlo Podoliak. According to him, Russia threw its best Wagner and regular army units into this battle, even victory would not allow Moscow to change the course of the war.

In the Lugansk region alone, neighboring Donetsk, Russia has it “collected” around 30,000 troops, also reportedly its governor in Ukraine, Serguiï Gaïdaï.

New reorganization of the Russian General Staff

At the same time in Moscow, in a new change of military leadership whose last episode is seen as dictated by the major setbacks faced on the ground, the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Valeri Guerrasimov – President Vladimir Putin’s direct interlocutor – was appointed “commander of the joint force group” deployed in Ukraine.

“High level special operations command [en Ukraine] related to the expansion of the scope of the mission to be carried out, with the need for closer interaction between components of the armed forces”, explained the Ministry of Defense in its press release.

Valeri Guerrasimov’s predecessor, General Sergei Surovikin – demoted to deputy – led the operation for barely three months. Deemed stubborn, he was appointed in October to improve the situation of the Russian army which had suffered setbacks in the face of Ukrainian offensives in the Kharkiv (northeast) and Kherson (south) regions. the withdrawal of Russian troops from the city of Kherson in early November, was a major setback for the Kremlin. He has also been linked to the tactic of a massive strike on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which has not swayed Kyiv.

Since then, the front line has generally stabilized, except for the Bakhmout area, in the Donetsk region (east), a town which the Russian army and Wagner’s paramilitary groups have been trying to capture for months. Facing these difficulties on the ground, Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reserves and a campaign to bomb Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Warsaw promises tanks

At the same time, Ukraine repeated its call to its Western partners, ahead of a new meeting at the American base Ramstein in Germany on January 20, to acquire heavy and long-range weapons.

“Only missiles with a range of more than 100 kilometers will allow us to significantly speed up the liberation of territories”, denied Mykhaïlo Podoliak in his statement toAFPpromised that they would not be used against Russian territory. “We still want to get 250-350 heavy tanks,” he repeated.

The Western powers have been slow to respond to Kyiv’s pleas in this regard and Paris, London, Berlin and Washington have only pledged tanks and other light armored vehicles at this stage. But Poland took the first step on Wednesday, saying it was ready to deliver a company of German Leopard 2 heavy tanks, or 14 units. This delivery will be made “as part of a coalition under construction”, said its president Andrzej Duda, during a joint press conference with his Ukrainian and Lithuanian counterparts, in Lviv in western Ukraine.

“One country alone cannot help us, because we are fighting thousands of Russian tanks,” reaction of President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I think today there will be a [décision] positive from other states to give us western style modern tanks,” he added, without naming the country.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda announced the delivery of Zenit anti-aircraft systems and necessary ammunition to Ukraine.

Polish Leopard tank maneuvers, as troops from Poland, the United States, France and Sweden take part in the DEFENDER-Europe 22 military exercise, in Nowogrod, Poland, May 19, 2022. | WOJTEK RADWANSKI / AFP

On Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba asked Germany to send Leopards, during the visit of his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock to Kharkiv. Russian bombing then hit the town in northeastern Ukraine, hours after the unannounced visit of Germany’s chief diplomat. A journalist fromAFP Then several explosions were heard in the town, relatively spared from recent Russian attacks.

Meeting between Ukrainian and Russian human rights officers

The meeting was held Tuesday in Turkey between Ukrainian and Russian human rights mediators, Dmytro Loubinets and Tatiana Moskalkova, a rare meeting of this level between officials from the two countries for several months, in Ankara.

Second deputy “discussing various humanitarian issues and cases related to the provision of human rights assistance to citizens of the two countries,” said Dmytro Loubinets on his social networks on Wednesday. “Humanitarian Aid for Citizens” Ukrainians and Russians have been mentioned, says Tatiana Moskalkova.

The mediators asked for Turkish intervention regarding a “human corridor” and the exchange of some forty prisoners from both countries. Recep Tayyip Erdogan reassured that he ” ready “ to play this role.

“We exchanged lists of military prisoners and we decided to return more than forty of them” Tatiana Moskalkova told the press. Dmytro Loubinets did not elaborate or comment on his country’s position on this. Ankara has played a key role in the September prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

Inflation of 11.9% in 2022 in Russia

Inflation in Russia stabilized in December at less than 12% for one year, after surging after the start of the attacks, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Rechetnikov announced on Wednesday.

“At the end of the year [2022]Our inflation is below 12%, 11.9% to be more precise. Maxime Rechetnikov pointed out during a government meeting broadcast on Russian television, in which President Vladimir Putin participated. Although at a steady high level, price increases have stabilized at around 12% since November, according to figures published monthly by the national statistics agency, Rosstat.

In early December, Vladimir Putin said he was expecting inflation “at 12.2%” at the end of the year, against a backdrop of contraction in national GDP “by 2.9%”far from an apocalyptic prophecy spring after the first international sanctions against Moscow in retaliation for its attack on Ukraine.

Prices, which were already rising in Russia due to the post-Covid-19 recovery and soaring commodity prices, have caught fire in the second quarter of 2022, in the weeks after the start of Russia’s intervention in its neighbour. In April, inflation even broke a record since 2002, rising to 17.8% for one year.

On Wednesday, Maxime Rechetnikov said he expected inflation to fall further in the coming weeks and past “under target 4%” in the second quarter of 2023.

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